Nottingham, July 8:
A new-look India will be eager to get their first overseas Test win in three years when they take on England in the first match of their five-Test series, starting here at Trent Bridge Wednesday.
The 0-4 whitewash they suffered on their last tour, just after their 2011 World Cup triumph, is still fresh in the minds of the Indians. This time they are without legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, but the young Indian team is better equipped to challenge the Englishmen in their backyard.
The series could be a close affair if the Indians can muster their bowling resources. But one thing is for sure, they have to score a lot of runs to back their bowlers on vastly different tracks from those seamer-friendly pitches they encountered three years ago.
The new drainage system installed at the Test venues has changed the nature of the pitches and they should suit Indian strokemakers Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
These gifted batsmen can take inspiration from the way the Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews batted in the just-concluded two-Test series which the island-nation won 1-0.
The pitches, which were relaid on sand beds, now hardly help the seamers and, in fact, aid spin. With the home advantage gone, the curators can only leave a fair sprinkling of grass on the pitches for the benefit of the English bowlers.
If the 2011 series was all about farewell to Dravid and Tendulkar, 2014 could be the launching pad for India’s Gen Next superstars. The aggression of Kohli, Pujara’s temperament, Gautam Gambhir’s gutsiness and Shikhar Dhawan’s audacity will be a treat for the cricket fans.
The Indians have a young bowling attack in seven pacers in Varun Aaron, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Sami, Ishwar Pandey, Pankaj Singh, Ishant Sharma and all-rounder Stuart Binny. Except Ishant, none of the pacers have the experience of playing in English conditions. Though the battery lacks experience, it is immensely talented.
Binny is an all-rounder in the mould of his father Roger, now a selector. Roger excelled with his medium pace during India’s 1983 World Cup triumph and was also the highest wicket-taker.
Roger also did well in the 1986 series picking 12 wickets from three matches in England. Binny has done well in the ODIs since his debut in New Zealand earlier this year and looks on course for his maiden Test cap here.
In England, India invariably played only one spinner and seeing the way the English batsmen struggled against Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, Ravindra Jadeja looks sure to play in the first Test, even though Dhoni seems to have greater faith in Ravichandran Ashwin.
Though England whitewashed India in 2011, but this time they don’t have Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann or Andrew Strauss. They were at their peak in 2011.
If either side has to win, they will have to take 20 wickets. Here England have a slight edge as their experienced seamers James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Liam Plunkett can be handful for the Indian batsmen.
England’s batting also looks good with Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance forming the backbone of the squad and with the hope that captain Alastair Cook finds his form quickly.
England (from): Alastair Cook (captain), Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, Liam Plunkett, James Anderson and Jos Buttler.
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Wriddhiman Saha, Pankaj Singh.
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
Match Referee: David Boon (Australia)